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Big Brother Awards France 2009

8 April, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Big Brother Awards Frankreich 2009

The French Big Brother Awards ceremony, or 'Orwell Party', was held this year on Saturday 4 April. The 2009 edition awarded 12 of the 35 nominees, in 6 categories, one of them being the positive 'Voltaire Award'. Armand Mattelart, a renowned professor of Information and Communication Studies, chaired the 2009 jury composed by 10 other members, among them academics, artists, and representatives from French NGOs, including EDRI-member IRIS.

Awarding almost one third of the nominees is a sign that the Jury task was hard this year, with the increase of surveillance and social control in France.

The French ministry of Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie, received the lifetime menace award, for her 'immoderate taste for police files', which quantity has increased by 70% in 3 years, as well as for her other 'qualities': her 'novlang' (video-surveillance is now called video-protection by French officials), her 'incitements to denouncement', and her talent to construct the 'internal enemy'.

The French ministry of Budget, Eric Woerth, received the State award. The Jury wanted to particularly alert against the centralised database RNCPS to be created, massively interconnecting data from the social sector in view of fraud fighting, using the social security number as identifier. This, of course, reminds the SAFARI project scandal that led to the adoption of the French Data Protection Act in 1978.

The award for companies was given to the French mutual insurance system, a not-for-profit organization, for 'its joint activism with private insurance companies in order to access some medical data from the social security administration'.

Paris Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, earned the local authorities award for 'his conversion to video-surveillance', after he agreed to contribute to the government efforts in this field, increasing by 4 times the number of cameras in Paris, reaching 1200 of them in public areas.

The Novlang award has two ex aequo recipients. The first one is Humabio, an EC funded research project on multimodal biometrics, most notably relying on behavioural biometrics to 'increase freedom of movement'. The second recipient is the family benefits sector of the social security system, for having trained its employee using a method, called IGGACE, which goes even further than a simple lie detector, since it is supposed to detect 'lying intent'. The method was originally developed for the police sector.

Not only the jury gave an additional award as a 'special mention', but it also awarded two ex aequo recipients. Frédéric Lefebvre, French MEP and spokesperson of Nicolas Sarkozy's party, certainly deserved his award for his 'incompetence and insistence to control the Internet', including by supporting the French 'three strikes law'. The other recipients is the 'anonymous zealot': having seen the number of individual civil servants who denounced irregular migrants, sometimes in breach of the professional secret, decided to highlight this phenomenon through a generic category.

Finally, the Voltaire award or positive prize was given to three ex aequo recipients, actually three coalitions that have been particularly active and gain some success: the coalition against the EDVIGE police file, the coalition of elementary and primary school directors against the central database of children (Base élèves), and the coalition against the use of biometrics in schools. In addition, another Voltaire prize was awarded, as a 'special mention', to Mireille and Monique, two volunteers who help irregular migrants based in Calais with the hope to reach the UK. This simple humanitarian help is a highly risky activity in France, a country where such help is now criminalized.

2009 Big Brother Awards France (only in French, 05.04.2009)

(Contribution by Meryem Merzouki - EDRi-member IRIS France)



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